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TEAM BUILDING

How to Create Team Building Exercises

Companies with engaged work forces perform better. Try team building exercises to re-energize the staff and improve communication.

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"Sometimes I feel like I'm working at Dunder Mifflin.  Today I'm not doing no work cause I'll be dancing (and this isn't Scranton)."  That is not a tweet or Facebook status from one of your disgruntled employees.  It's a line from the spoof video of Lady Gaga's "Telephone" that The Go Game did for the launch of their new team building product Company Quad. But if you thought that quote was something one of your employees would say, that's a sure sign you need to try some team building activities.

Company Quad brings the best of social media and casual gaming into the office with highly entertaining bite-sized games to be played by your company only. The game is loaded with weekly missions that are designed to foster creativity, encourage collaboration and entertaining.   "Our belief is people are naturally drawn to socialize online these days. We think you can harness that inclination," says co-creator of the San Francisco based company, Ian Fraser. With Company Quad the staffers will be collecting points, posting photos and sharing missions, all in the name of your company, Fraser says. "This promotes company cohesiveness and corporate culture."

If you've noticed your staffers taking more and personal days off or there's a general lack of interest in the task at hand, that may be a sign that your corporate culture is beginning to deteriorate. Team building exercises allow management and staff to forget about hierarchies and socialize informally. They can also be used to delve into more serious issues such as learning problem solving techniques and improving communication skills to help bring out and maintain smarter and harder working employees.

This guide on how to implement team building exercises into your business offers benefits for both management and staff to help foster creative thinking or as a way to remind staffers how much you value their work. In the end, experts here believe your business will be much better positioned for growth in the long term.


How to Create Team Building Exercises:  Benefits of Team Building Exercises

Team building is a way of helping a group of individuals to function as a cohesive unit, where members are valued, respected, and focused on a common set of goals, says David Greenberg, founder of www.teambuilding123.com based in Avondale Estates, Georgia. Many team building exercises can be implemented by you or your management team, while the more complex exercises should likely be turned over to a third party to implement. Adventure Associates, Inc. (AAI) in Washington, D.C, facilitates corporate team building adventures and team building workshops.   Ed Tilley, director of AAI says there are few core reasons to undertake team building exercises such as relationship building, celebrating success, and practicing team skills.

Relationship Building: According to Tilley, relationship building activities are a great way, for example, to bring outside salespeople together in one location with office staff to get to know one another better. Along those same lines team building offers colleagues who work together every day an opportunity to interact informally and learn more about each other on a personal level, Tilley says.

Celebrating Success: A kind word never hurt anyone and rewarding your employees for a job well done on a big project or reaching a company milestone, Tilley says, lets employees know their hard work is valued.

Practicing Team Skills: These programs enable teams to practice communication skills, learn and practice decision-making and problem-solving.

In the end, Tilley and Greenberg, agree, your team will have developed a greater awareness about their ability to problem solve and communicate effectively, get relevant work done, and make smarter decisions.  Managers should communicate an expectation that all employees should participate in team building activities, but participation should not be mandated in the employee handbook or in employee contracts.

"The executive must create a culture that fosters the above based on: his/her own behavior, creating clear expectations; building in the related processes and procedures to foster those expectations; and holding people accountable for following through," explains Dr. Jackalyn Sherriton, president of Corporate Management Developers/Health Management Consultants, Inc. (CMD/HMC) in Hollywood, Florida.

Dig Deeper: 5 Team Building Lessons from the NBA Playoffs



How to Create Team Building Exercises:  Choosing the Approach

The first step in finding the right team building solution for your team starts with you analyzing the goals and objectives that have led you to this place. Then consider your budget and how it will cost to bring everyone together.

"Check the pulse of the organization," says Sherriton. "It's an opportunity to reflect on what's going well; identify what's not working and obstacles facing the company or team; and develop strategies to overcome [the obstacles]."

If you choose to facilitate an activity in the office, certified speaking professional David Greenberg's instant-download book 36 Simple-to-Conduct Team Building Games, Icebreakers, Energizers and Closing Activities is available at www.teambuilding123.com for $159.95. According to Greenberg, the book features a compilation of easy to implement team building games such as "What Should We Do About the Neighbors?"

In this exercise a team leader reads a short scenario aloud to two groups and asks participants to sit together based on the option they select –A or B. All the people who choose Option A sit in one area or at one table, all those who choose Option B sit in another area. After groups are formed the team leader reads another short script where each groups prepares a brief presentation that will persuade people from the other groups to reconsider their choices and join his group.

"While participants first think this exercise is about persuading others, it's really about listening and mutual respect, especially when you don't agree. Your meeting room will be filled with laughter as your group experiences firsthand how to increase their appreciation for each others' contributions and solve problems much quicker than ever before," says Greenberg.

A book like Glenn Parker's "Team Players and Teamwork" ($14.25) can also be purchased for in-office activities and offers team building games aimed at improving communication and team work among employees. The book uses surveys to help employees determine their personality type, strategy games and details on how to interpret game results.

Parker, a Skillman, New Jersey-based team building consultant, can bring the situations in his book to life in your office. "I often ask all team members to complete my "Parker Team Player Survey" [which] gives them a reading on their style as they work in a team environment. Each person learns their strengths and how they can increase their team effectiveness," says Parker. "We also create a team profile based on all the survey results and look at whether that profile provides clues to how the team needs to change in order to increase their overall effectiveness."

"The emphasis does not always need to be on fun, however, I believe people learn best when they are having a good time, so, fun is important to combine in any team building experience," says Darrell Rush, president of Direct Effect Team Building Inc. in Mesa, Arizona.

CMD/HMC offers workshops for team building with a more serious tone on topics like welcoming new executive leadership into the fold or conflict resolution skills to manage "Serious conflict or distrust issues between the executive and the team or amongst the team, impacting performance," explains CMD's vice president James Stern.

Dig Deeper:  Team Building With the New York Jets



How to Create Team Building Exercises: Something For Every Budget

Experts agree that all team building activities do not have to be rooted in fun, but fun is one of the most popular forms of team building. On the other end of the cost spectrum, adventure-based or experiential team building sessions can leave a dent in the budget, but aim to reinforce the same ideals and attributes like relationship building, team work and trust; and to help employees identify strengths and weaknesses that are found in strategies carried out in an office. The appeal of experiential team building exercises is they are carried a neutral environment and they are, well, fun.

Company Quad, currently in beta testing, will eventually roll with a free, limited play version. The premium version will likely run about $2 per seat per month and administrators will be able to control access to the length of play.

Minimum pricing for adventure based or experiential team building sessions led by Tilley's AAI, for example, is $3,400 for a group of 15 for a half day. AAI offers GeoTrek relationship building exercises, celebrating success with a pursuit adventure up to and including team performance challenges to practice team skills and a Myers Briggs personality type indicator team development challenge.

Direct Effect Team Building Inc sessions, for example, range from about $50 -$175 per person for an activity which can vary from the experiential to the more low-key (but just as important) workshop on effective listening skills where, according to Rush, participants learn to "Overcome ineffective listening habits while learning to identify body language and listening styles of those to whom you are speaking."

Alternative low cost team building activities include a company-wide volunteer day or even an office book club. A study conducted by the Points of Light Foundation found that corporate volunteer programs advance strategic business goals and, according to executives interviewed in the study, significantly increase a company's overall competitiveness.

Dig Deeper:  How To Start a Volunteer Program



How to Create Team Building Exercises: Sample Team Building Exercises

If you still aren't sure of how to get started, here are a few examples of team building exercises.

Icebreakers: Two Truths and a Lie

Everyone comes up with two truths about themselves and one lie. The others have to guess what the lie is. This is a great icebreaker or get to know you game.

Adventure Associates: Pursuit Team Building Adventure
Imagine being able to tap into the abilities and talents of every team member while practicing and applying team process skills. Teams of approximately 12 are given backpacks with supplies, and strategize how to acquire the greatest number of points for completing a series of challenges.  Skills learned include illuminating problem-solving, innovation, shared leadership, communication skills, team planning and time management. Pursuit is a timed event, but it's not a race—AAI keeps the competition "friendly."

Team Engineering: CREATE-A-CAR
In the spirit of Soap Box Derby, Monsters Garage, and Trick My Ride, business teams will build a custom-racing machine.  Race teams will choose parts from a variety of raw materials including cardboard, PVC pipe and, of course, lots of duct tape.  After teams secure materials they must design a one-person machine on paper, choose a driver, and figure out maximum propulsion techniques.

Successful car building requires total teamwork including problem solving, creativity, focused leadership, thoughtful decision making and clear assignment of team member roles and responsibilities.  As the car takes shape teams are ready to test drive, detail, and make final mechanical adjustments before the big race.

The climax of this Indy style event is when teams present their "tricked out" cars at the starting line.  Drivers then race through a series of qualifying heats.  Each win gets them closer to the checkered flag that will determine which race teams will be crowned champions.
 
Dig Deeper:  7 Ways to Socialize With Your Employees (Without Getting in Trouble)



How to Create Team Building Exercises: How to Measure Effectiveness

Now that you've completed a team building exercise, how do you know if they've worked? Parker suggests the following barometers:

•    Has the problem or situation that caused you to initiate a team building process gone away?  For example, Parkers says if there was a lack of commitment to the goals of the team/company, do team members now regularly report on their progress relative to the goals?

•    During the data collection prior to the team building, ask everyone to complete a team assessment survey. "Sometime after the team building (e.g., 2-3 months), re-administer the same survey and compare results. Does the assessment data show an improvement in team effectiveness?" asks Parker.

•    Look at your business measures. Is there an increase in revenue, a decrease in costs, an improvement in customer satisfaction scores (or a decrease in customer complaints) or some other data points that are important measurements of your success?  

•    Look at the improvement plan developed by the team during the team building meeting.  See if the changes have been implemented and what has been their impact.  If team members also committed to change the way they function on the team, ask them to report on the extent to which they implemented those changes and how it is working out, says Parker.

Team building exercises are a way to reward your employees for their hard work and reinforce your commitment to them through experiential getaways. These exercises can also be beneficial in helping your employees identify their strengths and weaknesses and areas in need of improvement by simply sitting around the conference table having constructive and meaningful dialogue.

Dig Deeper:  How to Plan a Company Retreat

Last updated: Aug 12, 2010




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